USF expert gives projection on when omicron cases will peak in Florida

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Lines once again wrapped around buildings Monday as people waited to get tested for COVID-19 in Hillsborough County.

With so many positive cases, people across Tampa bay are having a hard time finding a test and waiting hours at mass testing sites.

Dr. Thomas Unnasch, an infectious disease expert at the University of South Florida, predicts cases will continue to climb over the next one to two weeks before quickly dropping.

“From what we’re seeing in South Africa, my guess is, it’s going to be a really really steep wave up, and then it’s going to be a really, really rapid decline down,” Unnasch said.

Unnasch expects cases of the highly-contagious omicron variant will peak mid-January, at which point he believes Florida will see record case numbers.

“At that point we’re probably going to be seeing an awful lot of cases here in Florida a day,” he said. “I would say probably pushing close to 150,000 to 200,000 cases a day by the time it peaks out. Case numbers have been doubling about once every two days to three days, and that has been going on for about a month. On average, every person is infecting between two and three new people. It’s going to really move through the population really quickly because it’s so infectious. We’re going to see a lot of infections, and then people are going to get immune.”

In Tampa, more than 6,000 people have been tested at city sites since Friday.

People started lining up hours before the testing site at Al Lopez Park opened Monday morning.

“I came early because yesterday when I came, the line, this was about 3 o’clock, but the line was long,” said Torre Spencer, who was one of the first in line Monday morning.

Spencer waited for an hour an a half on Sunday before getting out of line and leaving.

“I just realized I wasn’t going to get out of here until probably after they closed, so I decided to leave and come back this morning,” Spencer said.

Residents expressed frustration over the long wait times and said more sites need to be opened to deal with the current wave.

“There’s not enough. There should be more actually to avoid this craziness out here,” Felipe Rios said.

To help with demand, another testing site will open in Tampa Tuesday at Al Barnes Park.

City officials also urged people to refrain from going to testing sites if they are really sick.

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